Meet the Scientist! Dr. Nathan Schiff

An entomologist
studies the biology,
natural history and
control of insects. I
am interested in how
tree–feeding insects use
microbes to help them
digest wood.
Dr. Nathan Schiff
Ph.D., University of Illinois
USDA Forest Service scientist
Important Scientist Characteristics
H My two most useful talents are curiosity and
stubbornness. Curiosity—because it is easy to
find a project when everything is interesting.
Stubbornness—because I won’t quit until I get an
Example of a simple research question I have tried
to answer: How can we identify the larvae of many
species of wood-boring wasps that all look the
same? I was able to identify the wasps by DNA
Technology or equipment used in research:
I use many pieces of equipment but the one I
use most is a PCR machine. It is about the size
of a basketball. I can program it to change the
temperature inside it any way I want. It is used to
amplify a region of DNA so that I have enough copies
to read the sequence.
Most Exciting Discovery
I have found many species
of insects that are new to
science which is always
exciting but I think my
favorite discovery was that I
could identify wild colonies
of honey bees that were
descendants of Egyptian bees
brought to the United States
in the 1860’s.
When did you know you
wanted to be a scientist?
I always planned on going
to medical school. However,
when I was a sophomore
in college I took a course in
paleontology (the study of
fossils) and the professor had
such an interesting life that I
decided to become a biologist.
I chose to be an entomologist
in my senior year.